If a partial or total knee replacement is on your mind this year, you’re not alone. More than 790,000 knee replacement surgeries are performed in the United States each year.
Knee replacements are one of the most successful procedures in all of medicine, according to the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons. In fact, the risk of complications from a knee replacement is extremely low – more than 95% of patients recover with no complications.
However, choosing to have a knee replacement is a big decision. You’ve probably been dealing with chronic knee pain for quite some time and you’re ready to get back to doing the things you love. But you may be worried about the surgery itself and what comes after.
We’re here for you every step of the way, from your first consultation through recovery. What kind of care and support can you expect from the TRIA team? Let’s dive in.
First, let’s meet your knee replacement care team
When you choose to have a knee replacement, you don’t just get a world-class surgeon. You get a team of highly trained and experienced health care professionals. Here’s a look at some of the members of your care team:
- A board-certified orthopedic surgeon – Your surgeon has likely been with you from the beginning of your knee replacement journey. They may have worked with you to create a non-surgical knee pain treatment plan first, or it all started when you scheduled a knee replacement consultation. Your surgeon is the doctor who will perform your knee replacement and the doctor you’ll see for follow-up care.
- A nurse care guide – Your nurse care guide will help coordinate your care leading up to and after surgery. They’ll be your main source of information and the person you can call if you have any questions at any time.
- A surgery scheduler – Your surgery scheduler is the person who helps you schedule your surgery and all your follow-up appointments.
- A primary care professional – Primary care doctors, physician assistants and nurse practitioners provide preventive care like annual physicals and flu shots, help manage chronic health conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure, and treat acute illnesses like the common cold or allergies. When it comes to your knee replacement surgery, you’ll see one of these primary care specialists for your preoperative appointment.
- An anesthesiologist and anesthetist – Your anesthesiologist and anesthetist are a doctor and a highly trained nurse, respectively, who work together to make sure you’re comfortable and pain-free during surgery.
- A physical therapist – You may work with a physical therapist before and after your surgery. Before your surgery, a physical therapist can help you manage pain and build up as much strength as possible – which can help set you up for success after surgery. They also assist with rehabilitation post-surgery, helping you adjust to your new joint, strengthen your joint and surrounding muscles, and improve your mobility.
- An occupational therapist – Following your surgery, your occupational therapist will teach you how to safely perform daily activities, like bathing or dressing, as you recover.
Oftentimes, knee replacements are same-day surgeries that take place in our state-of-the-art outpatient surgery center. Many patients – who meet certain criteria – choose to go straight home to recover. Others take advantage of our Hotel Recovery Program, which includes an overnight stay at a nearby hotel and access to personal nursing care.
Depending on several factors like your insurance coverage and overall health, you may have your surgery at a hospital and stay for a day or two. Your surgery will likely still be considered an outpatient procedure, however.
If you stay at the hospital after surgery, other team members may include a hospitalist, a nurse practitioner or physician assistant, social worker or case manager, and others to help coordinate your post-surgery care and get you ready to be discharged.
Setting you up for knee replacement success: What you can expect from us before surgery
The first big step: Helping you decide if a knee replacement is right for you
When is the best time to get a knee replacement? That all depends on you.
Your age, medical and treatment history, level of pain and mobility are all factors. Your orthopedic doctor will also want to take a look at what’s happening inside your knees with the help of X-rays and MRIs. This is so important because surgery isn’t always the best next step. Plus, timing your knee replacement right can help you maximize post-surgery benefits.
If you and your surgeon determine it’s time for a knee replacement, then the prep work begins.
Step 2: Prepping you for knee replacement surgery
You’re getting a knee replacement. Yay! And while you’re probably counting down to the big day, preparation will be just as important as the surgery itself and your recovery.
Your biggest job will be preparing your mind, body, family and home for surgery. We’ve created a knee replacement surgery checklist to help you prepare in the month or so before surgery. But some other important things to consider include:
- Arranging for time off work
- Staying active and working on strengthening your knee as much as possible before surgery
- Applying for a disability parking certificate
- Completing any necessary dental care before surgery
- Preparing a health care directive
- Preparing your home for when you return after surgery
- Arranging postoperative care and transportation
- Making sure you have someone to help you after surgery:
- If you choose to go home right after surgery, we strongly recommend that someone stays with you – particularly for the few days immediately following surgery
- If you choose our Hotel Recovery Program first, we do require that a responsible adult be with you during your stay
Of course, we’ll be here to answer any questions you have and coordinate your care. Some of the specific things we’ll help you with include:
- Getting your operation and follow-up appointments scheduled, which will include a joint replacement education visit, and a preoperative appointment and nose swab screening
- Advising you on how to handle any medications or steroid injections you may be receiving
- Introducing you to physical therapy and the preoperative exercises that are recommended
- Familiarizing you with the adaptive equipment like walkers or canes that you’ll be using to help you get around after surgery
Supporting you after a knee replacement: How we help you heal after surgery
We want to make sure you have all the tools to get back to living your best life. So, your recovery from knee replacement surgery will begin almost immediately. Just a few hours after surgery, we’ll help you stand and take your first steps. Before you leave the hospital or surgery center, we want you to feel comfortable going home. So, we’ll help make sure you:
- Have your first physical and occupational therapy appointments scheduled
- Have a plan to safely manage post-surgery pain
- Know how to care for your incision and the precautions you need to take with moving your new joint
- Know how to use adaptive equipment correctly
- Have guidance on how to maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine as you recover
Once you’re home, for the next six to 12 weeks you’ll work with a physical therapist to strengthen your knee and regain mobility, and an occupational therapist to help you adjust to life after surgery. Within the first couple weeks, you’ll also meet with your surgeon for a follow-up visit to see how your recovery is going, both physically and mentally. Your doctor will help you determine when it’s safe to:
- Return to work full-time
- Start driving again
- Travel in a car or airplane
- Resume regular exercise or sex
Here for you every step of the way
If you already have your knee replacement surgery on the books, that’s great. But we know you’ll probably have questions before the big day comes up, so don’t hesitate to contact your orthopedic clinic.
If you think you may be ready for a knee replacement, let’s talk about your options. Schedule a consultation with a board-certified orthopedic surgeon.